A new theatre project in Mountjoy Prison seeks to help prisoners overcome “the reputations that precede them”.
‘Theatre of the Oppressed’ invites inmates to “explore power oppression, society, policy, poverty”, according to coordinator Senator Lynn Ruane.
She told The Pat Kenny Show she is a “big believer” in “interrupting cycles of violence”, and was inspired by a social justice theatre methodology created by Brazilian activist Augusto Boal in the 1970s.
“They’re able to engage with society,” she said. “They navigate power, they overcome people having an idea of a reputation that precedes them, that no longer applies to them.
“[It explores] how they engage with State bodies, even as children... before they perpetrate violence, they were often the victims of violence.
“They wanted to just explore how power oppression, society, policy, poverty affected their lives.”
'Frank and enlightening'
The first production of the project, ‘Pedro’s Dream’, took place in June, and saw The Sun Crime Editor Stephen Breen invited by the prisoners to see the play.
Mr Breen told the show he was “apprehensive” but “certainly curious” when he received the invitation.
“I just thought it was a good opportunity for me as a journalist to explore an area of the justice system that we would write about quite frequently,” he said.
Mr Breen said he had a very “frank” and “enlightening” conversation with many of the prisoners he had previously written about.
“One said, ‘I don’t hate you, but I don’t trust you’... another said he used to hate me but now he’s on a different journey,” he said.
'The prisoners welcome you'
The play itself was also “insightful”, according to Mr Breen, as prisoners explored their own journey with the justice system and their own actions.
Those in attendance included HSE and Department of Justice representatives, along with members of An Garda Síochána and the creative arts community.
“You heard the prisoners welcome you into the prison,” Mr Breen said.
“They would stage different scenes where you got to see senior members of the clergy getting involved.
“In one of the scenes, you got to listen to some of the stories that the prisoners had from a young age.”
'They take full responsibility'
Senator Ruane said the prisoners “take full responsibility” for the crimes that put them in Mountjoy.
“They're taking so much responsibility that they engage every day, in their own education, their own development,” she said.
“They also want a society where there are no more victims of crime, and we can't achieve that unless we include people who have actually perpetrated crimes.”